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October 16, 2019

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Horsford: Education is key to gaining allies in fight against Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain Tour

John Locher / AP

Train tracks are seen through Yucca Mountain during a congressional tour Thursday, April 9, 2015, near Mercury.

Nevada won’t be able to kill the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain “by just saying no,” Rep. Steven Horsford told a Las Vegas audience on Monday. He said education was key, which was partly why he planned to take part in a tour of the mountain this week with other lawmakers.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, Horsford described how meetings between Nevada’s congressional delegates and individual members of the House Appropriations Committee helped influence a key vote this year on Yucca Mountain. He said that the 27-25 vote against resurrecting the project came after he and his colleagues persuaded 13 Democratic lawmakers who had previous supported Yucca Mountain to flip on the project.

“I found that many members didn’t know enough about the issue,” Horsford said. “When I explained to them the transportation issues and what this project would do, being just 90 miles from the heart of my district, they listened.”

Horsford said that in discussions about Yucca Mountain, representatives from other states tend to focus largely on wanting somewhere else to put nuclear waste being stored in their districts and don’t think much about the ramifications of the project beyond that. But the Nevada delegation stresses to them that transporting the nation’s 100,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain is a potentially deadly hazard from coast to coast, given that transportation routes would carry the waste through 329 congressional districts and that an accident or terrorist attack involving any shipment could result in the deadly release of radioactive materials.

“This is a danger for all of the U.S.,” he said.

Horsford, a Democrat who represents the 4th congressional district, said he had asked House leadership to form a working group to consider the long-term options for storing waste — with Yucca Mountain not among them. He said he also was advocating for legislation that would bar the government from storing waste in states without their consent.

On other issues, Horsford said the state of Arizona needed to “catch up” to Nevada in developing its part of the proposed Interstate 11 connection between Phoenix and Nevada.

Horsford said he has spoken about the project several times with Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz., a former Phoenix mayor.

“I talk to Greg on this pretty often, (saying that) that Arizona needs to do its part,” Horsford said. “Nevada has done its part.”

Nevada used a mix of federal and state funding to complete its portion of I-11 from the state line to Las Vegas. Arizona is still studying routes for the 280 miles of the interstate that would stretch from Nogales to Wickenburg. Three routes have been identified.

“Ensuring the future of I-11 is of utmost importance to me,” Horsford said. “As we know, we’ll get significant return on our investment by creating desperately needed jobs and connecting two largest metros in the U.S. that aren’t connected by an interstate.”

Click to enlarge photo

Steven Horsford, candidate for Nevada's 4th Congressional District, gives a victory speech during a Nevada Democrats election night party at Caesars Palace Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

Shifting his focus to trade, Horsford said he believed the new version of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is awaiting ratification by Congress, fell short by not containing provisions to protect worker rights and enforce environmental standards. He also said that the proposed pact would adversely affect American consumers by giving pharmaceutical companies 10 years’ protection from competition for some drugs.

But Horsford, a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee whose areas of oversight include trade, said there was no doubt that NAFTA needed to be redone.

“I want to get to ‘yes’” on the new version, he said. “I want to be able to support it.”

Horsford began his appearance by recapping his work this year, which included efforts to lower prescription drug prices and maintain health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, helping secure funding for water resource projects and cyber security, and protecting the security of voting systems.

With Congress on its annual August break, several members of the Nevada delegation will be making appearances in the state during coming weeks.